In my Aug. 13 column, I described an ideal world in which you had five years to plan ahead for retirement. However, there are times when you have to cram planning into a year or less — for example, if you are given an opportunity to retire early or offered a buyout. Even a little time wisely spent can produce a big payoff. So, here’s my “to do” list for you.
Attend a pre-retirement seminar.
If your agency offers one, sign up for it. If it doesn’t, ask if it will foot the bill for one offered by a private-sector provider. If not, enroll in one at your own expense. Pre-retirement seminars are the best place to get answers to your questions and to raise your awareness of issues you might not have considered.
Visit your personnel office to:
- Review your Official Personnel Folder (OPF). Make sure it includes a complete record of your federal employment, including any active-duty military service, records of your Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance coverage, the effective dates of each pay adjustment, and your designations of beneficiaries, if you should die. Work with the benefits specialist to make any corrections.
- Verify your FEHBP coverage. As a rule, you must have been enrolled in FEHBP for the five consecutive years before you retire — or from your first opportunity to enroll — to be able to carry that coverage into retirement. There is an exception to this rule if the Office of Personnel Management has granted your agency a waiver because it is offering early retirements or buyouts. Then you only need to be enrolled before the beginning date of your agency’s latest early retirement or buyout authority. There is also an exception if you have had health insurance through the military and are enrolled in an FEHBP plan when you retire.
- Verify your FEGLI coverage. You must have been enrolled in FEGLI for the five consecutive years before you retire — or from your first opportunity to enroll — to be able to carry that coverage into retirement. However, unlike FEHBP, there are no exceptions to the rule.
- Verify when you’ll be able to retire. Under both the Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System, you can retire at age 62 with five years of service or at age 60 with 20 years. If you are offered an opportunity to retire early, you can do it at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25.
While CSRS employees can retire at age 55 with 30 years of service, FERS employees can retire with 30 years of service only if they have reached minimum retirement age (MRA), which ranges between 55 and 57 depending on year of birth. FERS employees can retire at MRA with as few as 10 years of service, but the annuity will be reduced by 5 percent for every year under age 62. You can reduce or eliminate that penalty by postponing receipt of your annuity to a later date. If you were entitled to carry your FEHBP or FEGLI coverage into retirement, you can re-enroll when your annuity begins.
If you are a CSRS employee who is taking an early retirement, you face a 2 percent reduction for every year you are under age 55.
If you owe any deposits or redeposits to the retirement fund to get credit for prior service, either in determining your eligibility to retire or in your annuity computation, the specialist can help you find out how much you owe. Then you can decide if it makes financial sense to do that.
- Get a retirement annuity estimate. If your benefits specialist doesn’t have the software to do that, you can do it on your own by using online calculators, such as the ones at www.FEDbens.us.
Set your retirement date.
Fill out an Application for Immediate Retirement — SF 2801 for CSRS, SF 3107 for FERS. Keep one copy and submit the other to your personnel office.